But I look at the landscape of America and still find much to appreciate and even more to be grateful for.
Nations are not accidents; they are examples of God's providence and protection. In Romans 13, Paul informs us that God raises up governments and that individuals in power are His instruments to administer justice. When we reflect on what God has given us in and through America, we have particular cause to be thankful. Consider these four characteristics woven into the fabric of the American experience.
America is unique in that it is one of the few nations in the world where one can become "an American" regardless of where you're from or who you are. Everyone here is from somewhere else. We identify an American not simply in terms of legal status but also as a way of life, a set of ideals, principles and habits. I was an American long before I was a Christian, and I was taught how to be an American -- how to identify with something greater than myself. I cannot look back on my experience of learning what it means to be an American and not draw a parallel to my experience of learning what it means to be a Christian. God in His grace and mercy gave me the gift of salvation. Since the day I became a citizen of God's Kingdom, I have learned the way of life, principles and habits that mark a Christian's life. As a believer, my identity is in Christ. As an American my identity is rooted in a common history. I love America because being an American has taught me the value of an identity.
I still remember as a child watching the footage of distant wars and going to parades to see the full regalia of American might on parade. I was filled with awe and an overwhelming sense of feeling protected. Although that sense of protection has been tried at times, most notably on 9/11, I am grateful that our nation rarely takes the sword in vain. In this too, America serves as but a shadow for the protection my Lord provides. When our nation fails in its role to protect, and when justice remains unsatisfied, I know that ultimately there is One who will never leave nor forsake His own, and no one will ever be able to pluck me from His hand. I love America because I know in some small way how it feels to be protected, while so many in this world only dream of this gift.
I have had the occasion to visit Arlington national cemetery in Washington, D.C., a number of times. I even had the opportunity to lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknowns, which commemorates all those who have fallen anonymously in service to their country. It is impossible not to be moved when one stands amid the fields of marble headstones in Arlington. Though the tombs are silent, the cry of their sacrifice is deafening. Those brave Americans who have given the last best measure of their lives so that I might enjoy mine deserve veneration and respect. They model the selfless love of the One who came before them, who died so that all might live. I love America for the witness of many who willingly sacrificed their life for the lives of others. Whether they realized it or not, their lives and their gift of life pointed to Christ and His sacrifice.
America often has been referred to as an experiment, a temporary trial of new ideals and bold freedoms. This nation was not simply born; it has and continues to be reborn. Through great sacrifice and difficulty, America came into being, and ever since it has been a haven for potential. The very air that we breathe is scented with possibility. For many years people from all over the globe have crawled and scraped just to take a gasp. We are an unfinished project, an incomplete structure, and we know it. Our founders recognized that they were not the pinnacles of human achievement; they gave us the tools to improve our lot and better our culture. Those same tools have been used for both good and ill, but their mere existence should give the Christian hope. As Christians, we should realize that we also are unfinished works, being renewed day by day in the Spirit of God. I love America because it is a land of rebirth and second chances and, as such, it points to the grace of God who desires all to be born again and whose limitless love stands open to embrace the faithful and prodigal alike.
Drew Griffin has served as a church planting apprentice at Cross Church in northwest Arkansas since August 2012. Next month Griffin and his wife Emily will relocate to New York City to begin a church plant in the Upper East Side. Griffin is on Twitter at @dg_nyc and on the Internet at www.theimplantedword.net. Photo credit: Devin Maddox. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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